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Current Trends and Predictions in Corporate Social Responsibility (2012 Edition)

January 30, 2012

Six months ago, I highlighted the following five trends that I predicted would be prominent in corporate social responsibility in 2011 and 2012 (Five Trends to Watch in CSR, July 28, 2011). They were:

  • Responsibility as a company value (more companies including "responsibility," "sustainability," "respect" and "citizenship" in their mission statements).
  • Growing integration between corporate philanthropy, volunteerism and sustainability (more companies integrating these functions into one office or program)
  • Growing recognition that CSR can build skills in the workplace (more companies focused on volunteerism and community service as ways of building leadership and operational skills)
  • More and better communications about CSR (more CSR reports and the use of social media to engage various stakeholders)
  • Increasing call for more accountability, measurement and transparency (more and better communications about the impact of corporate practices and programs)

Recently, other writers have weighed in with their predictions for CSR in 2012.

For example, Susan McPherson, a senior vice president at Fenton who writes frequently about corporate responsibility, shared the following four trends in a posting on the Harvard Business Review Blog entitled, "Why CSR's Future Matters to Your Company" (January 6, 2012):

  • Employee engagement. Citing a recent sustainability study by Green Research, which found that 80% of major corporations are planning to invest significantly in employee engagement in 2012, McPherson predicts a continued growth in employee volunteer programs.
  • Cause marketing. According to a PR Week/Barkely PR Cause Survey in 2010, two-thirds of brands now engage in cause marketing, up from 58% in 2009. McPherson predicts that these cause marketing programs will multiply.
  • The skeptical consumer. Consumers now have a variety of on-line tools to help them interact directly with various watchdog organizations to track corporate practices. McPherson suggests that companies that invest in engaging with such consumers will reap benefits.
  • Board-level involvement. In 2011, the National Association of Corporate Directors Public Company Governance Survey asked about the highest priorities for boards of directors. The highest priority was strategic planning and oversight at 72% and the lowest priority was CSR at 2%. McPherson suggests that boards will be playing catch up in 2012.

Alice Korngold, CEO of Korngold Consulting and blogger for Fast Company, advocates for a larger corporate vision than just philanthropy and corporate social responsibility in a recent piece for The Huffington Post (December 20, 2011). She predicts that "Corporate Global Vision" (or CGV) is "on its way" as an evolution of CSR.

Arguing that the forces of transparency and accountability are helping companies reveal more and more information about their global practices, under the rubric of Korngold's Corporate Global Vision idea, corporations would envision a better world and correct practices that may be contributing to some of the world's most serious problems.

I'm sticking with my original list of trends, but it seems to me that Integration is a key concept when looking for trends in corporate social responsibility.

In order to be effective and profitable in today's global and connected world, companies need a global vision of who they are and what they want to be, globally responsible products and practices, the right communications strategy, and committed employees and customers who are engaged and supportive (even if they're skeptical). CSR programs can, and do, provide some of the glue to hold these various piece parts together.

What do you think of these trends and predictions? Do you have any of your own? Share them by clicking here and sending me a message.


Michele L. Sullivan
Tim...I totally agree with the trends you have laid out. Studies have shown that people think about a company's CSR efforts when choosing a brand.
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